TeamRefugees: Yolande Mabika

TeamRefugees: Yolande Mabika

Fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo separated Yolande Mabika from her parents when she was a young child. She remembers little else but running alone and being picked up by a helicopter that took her to the capital, Kinshasa. There, living in a centre for displaced children, she discovered judo.

Yolande went on to become a professional athlete, competing in major tournaments. "Judo never gave me money, but it gave me a strong heart," she says. "I got separated from my family and used to cry a lot. I started with judo to have a better life."

In 2013, when she came to Rio to compete at the World Judo Championship, her coach confiscated her passport and limited her access to food – as he did at every competition abroad. Fed up with years of abuse, including being caged after losing tournaments, Yolande fled the hotel and wandered the streets searching for help.

Now, as refugee in Brazil, she has won a spot on the Refugee Olympic Athlete team and received training at the judo school founded by Flavio Canto, a Brazilian Olympic bronze medallist. "I will be part of this team and I will win a medal. I am a competitive athlete, and this is an opportunity that can change my life," she says. "I hope my story will be an example for everybody, and perhaps my family will see me and we will reunite."